Learning to do right by examining when professionalism goes wrong

Examining breaches in professionalism can help radiologists learn what it means to act in a professional manner, according to an article published in the April issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

“When we fall short of our ideals, we gain an opportunity to see more clearly what we are attempting to achieve and, more importantly, to become,” wrote Richard B. Gunderman, MD, PhD, and Cheryl A. Steiman, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Gunderman and Steiman looked at the who, what, when, where, how and why of radiology professionalism through a series of examples of professionalism gone wrong, including:

  • An interventional radiologist made derogatory remarks about a patient during a procedure. Even though the patient was sedated, she still heard the remarks and was offended.
  • A radiologist who was passed over for a promotion began saying “uncharitable” things about colleagues, damaging morale and the collaborative spirit.
  • A senior radiologist made it a habit to ignore referring physicians—and instructed residents to do the same—because he felt they should get his opinion from reports and leave him to conduct his work.
  • A knowledgeable and skilled radiologist tended to interact with colleagues in a “brusque” manner, and while he never violated any rules or policies, he came to be known as cold and uncaring.

“Being a physician means leading in at least informal if not formal ways. Patients, colleagues, administrators, and members of the community look to us for guidance,” wrote Gunderman and Steiman.

They added that in addition to examining these and other examples of unprofessionalism, it’s important for radiologists to understand why they chose the specialty in the first place. “Ultimately, it is only with reference to why we do what we do that we can understand who we need to be; what we need to do; and when, where, and how we need to do it.”